Monstrous Bodies

Dyson Lecturer Ying Wang explores disability, deviance, and feminism in the writings of 19th century French female authors.

“We had already talked a lot about a difference in identity. Differences in gender, race, sexuality—how they were represented in women’s writings,” says Ying Wang, PhD, a lecturer in Dyson’s Modern Language and Cultures Department, “but critics have overlooked a very important difference: body difference, disabled people, how women represent these figures and why they were incorporated into women’s writings.”

This exploration of body difference, Wang believes, possibly stems from fact that in the 19th century,the scientific, medical, religious, and moral discourses were destined to justify the link between femininity and disability. The female body is considered to be an inferior body—a weak body. When women represent and involve this disability in their works, specifically in their sentimental novels, there must be a reason, Wang asserts, a reason worth our attention and research.

“The concept of the normal body, this standard, is what creates this monstrous body,” says Wang. “Any deviation is considered abnormal—‘monstrous.’ We consider the female body to be abnormal, the second body.”

The 19th century female writer was considered a “monstrous” being by her contemporaries. Why? Wang says it’s mainly because in Western society, women’s roles were defined to be private—the angel of the house. “Only man had the right to write, and those sorts of public things,” Wang says, “Women should be wife and mother, but when they started to write, they reclaimed their subjectivity. They transgressed the gender constraints that society imposed on them.”

The novels Wang primarily focused her research on were Anatole (1815) by Sophie Gay, a love story featuring a deaf and mute man; Olivier ou le Secret (1824) by Claire de Duras, a tragic love story that deals with male physiological impotence; Delphine de Girardin’s Monsieur le Marquis de Pontanges (1856), a story about a woman who must choose between her mentally retarded husband and a handsome, young seducer; and finally Juliette Adam’s Laide (1878), a dramatic tale of a young woman cast from her home by her sculptor father for having an ugly face.

“I want to wake them up,” says Wang, “I want to wake up their long-forgotten work and I want to wake up the disabled figures represented in their novels. I think there must be meaning behind it—how Western women within the context of the 19th century were considered disabled—not equal to men—and how women writers used disabled figures to question the norm and the constraints imposed by society on their gender. ”

Wang, who has spent the last several years investigating the representation of the disabled body in 19th century women’s sentimental novels, says France’s literary women have been forgotten and their work rarely incorporated into canon—not because their writing wasn’t any good, but because the patriarchy ideology favored male writers while marginalizing women’s literary creativity.

“The women writers of that time were seen as abnormal. They were popular and famous at the time, but have since disappeared from our anthologies and literary collections,” explains Wang. “They were considered as hybrids—possessing the body of a woman, but the mentality and intelligence of a man.”

For Wang, the importance of the textual body is critical to understanding why women writers included disability in their work and how the disabled figures influenced the narrative structure of their novels.

“For example, when there are disabled figures—when the hero is deaf—the disability initiates that story. It motivates that story to explain what happened and why,” she says. “One of the major functions of this deviance—this absence of normalcy—is to initiate a story to tell.”

Examining the Spectrum

The first in a series of Pace-wide research lectures addresses the field of autism research and interdisciplinary program development.

Pace University is an institution of esteemed learning, research, and scholarship, and on November 20 from 12:15 p.m. to 1:05 p.m., faculty and staff are invited to the first Pace-wide research lecture and Q&A.

Not only will this Provost-sponsored lecture series give the Pace Community an opportunity to get to know and learn from our colleagues, but it also gives us the opportunity to generate ideas for joint research. The first lecture in the series was chosen on the basis that it covers nearly all disciplines at Pace. It is a subject of great interest to many people who have encountered this disorder in their families and the research of the presenter, Dianne Zager, PhD, is internationally renowned.

The first lecture, Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Fertile Field for Research and Program Development Across Disciplines, will be presented by Dyson Professor Dianne Zager, PhD, the Michael C. Koffler Professor of Autism at Pace University.

The presentation will be broadcasted Pace-wide from Videoconference Room 319 in NYC (with lots of seating), to Videoconference Room Miller 16 in PLV, and to Videoconference Room 511 in the Graduate School in White Plains.

A Boy/Girl Thing

Dyson Associate Professor Emilie Zaslow and recent graduate Brian Rentas ’13 examine the media’s portrayal of gender variance and LGBTQ children.

“Most of the morning shows end with a question posed to the viewers as part of digital engagement. They ask things like ‘Would you allow your child to dress like this? What would you do if your child dressed like this? Is it ok for children to dress like this?’” explains Dyson Associate Professor of Communication Studies Emilie Zaslow, PhD. “On one hand, it doesn’t close the media frame—it doesn’t give you the answer to the narrative. On the other hand, it leaves the viewer with the sense that ‘supporting a child who is gender variant is open for debate.’”

When Zaslow and student Brian Rentas ’13 teamed up as part of the Student-Faculty Undergraduate Research Initiative, it was an opportunity for both of them to explore media and communications from a new perspective.

“For me,” says Zaslow, “my work has typically been about what it means to be a girl and how the media depicts girls. I’ve worked with a lot of students on their honors theses and I’ve had students help me on my own research, but I’ve never worked so collaboratively with a student. It was an interesting thing to develop ideas together.”

Rentas and Zaslow focused mainly on the media’s portrayal of six stories including those of Bobby Montoya, a 7-year-old transgender child looking to join the Girl Scouts; J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons posing with her son and commenting on his pink toenails; and McKenna Pope, who petitioned toymaker Hasbro to create an Easy Bake Oven in gender neutral colors so that her brother could play with it.

Their research also focused on gender neutrality stories, specifically the baby named Storm, whose parents would not share the baby’s sex with friends and family and were raising the child as gender neutral. They found that the story about Storm was typically presented in a very negative light, where as the story of McKenna Pope crusading for an Easy Bake Oven in more gender neutral colors was perceived and represented more positively. Partly, Zaslow and Rentas believe, because the latter story was an attempt to prevent a boy from playing with girls’ toys.

“Americans spend nearly 40 hours a week watching television; and children generally spend much more time with media than do adults. Media is ubiquitous. We learn about who we are, who our children are, what gender is, what it means to be a boy or girl—and we learn a lot of this from our viewing and the relationship we have with television,” explains Zaslow.

The pair, who used videos and transcripts from news reports, reviewed the footage independently and would identify the lead, the pull-out quotations, catalog the guests they had, and identify the various frames within the story.

“They [the shows] bring on a psychiatrist or a mother of one of these children and say we should love and accept the child for who they are, but then they ask viewers, ‘would you love and accept your child under these circumstances?’” says Zaslow. “It basically nullifies the frame of acceptance.”

“I was surprised by what I was learning and I was coming from the perspective of wanting to research this!” Rentas says. “I knew what framing is, what a frame could do to public perception in the long scheme, and I could really only imagine what it would mean to people who don’t know anything about communication studies, who don’t have a definitive idea of what they’re being told and what the presentation means to them.”

As for the future of their research, Zaslow and Rentas plan to publish their findings and hope that the work they’re doing will add to discourse on the topic.

For more information about their work into LGBTQ media framing and the Undergraduate Student/Faculty Research initiative, click here.

Your Pad or Mine?

A famous frog once sang “it’s not easy being green,” but for the gray treefrogs in Dyson Professor Joshua Schwartz’s lab, the real challenge is finding a date.

“Typically, what happens with these treefrogs is if you go to a pond a lot of males are calling all at once and on any given evening, a relatively small percentage of the female population have eggs and are ready to breed,” explains Dyson Professor of Biology Joshua Schwartz, PhD. “So the females listen to the males calling and then they make a mate-choice decision. They pick a partner for the night based on what they hear. If one male’s call sounds better than another’s, then she moves in his direction.”

The female gray treefrogs are collected from a nearby field-site by Schwartz and his student researchers. Once collected, the female treefrogs are brought to the basement of Wilcox Hall, where Schwartz has set up a lab that is ideal for his female-choice experiments. An individual female treefrog is put under a screen cup inside a large enclosed chamber lined with acoustic foam which reduces echoes of the sounds of the synthetic male treefrog calls which are played on speakers that have been strategically set up in the room.

“We can manipulate individual features of the synthetic call and how the call is delivered,” says Schwartz. “After the female has had a listen, we raise the screen cup using a pulley and she will hop in the direction of the call she likes best and we record that as a mate-choice decision.”

The experiments are performed in pitch blackness and Schwartz and his students monitor the females’ movements using closed circuit television and infrared illumination, otherwise known as night-vision.

“By manipulating the synthetic call, we are trying to tease apart what females like in a mate. We can vary the acoustic background, and we can set up more complicated situations by using four, six, or eight speakers all playing a variation on a call,” he says.

But Schwartz’s research isn’t a females-only endeavor. On the Pleasantville Campus, Schwartz has set up a greenhouse dome that contains a habitat that resembles the environment gray treefrogs would inhabit in the wild. The enclosure contains a population of male gray treefrogs that Schwartz monitors in the evening. Using directional microphones, he records each frog’s individual vocalizations. Those are then fed into a computer interface that he built that allows him to analyze vocal interactions among males. Sometimes, a female is brought into the greenhouse so that her mate-choice can be observed in a more realistic environment than the testing chamber in Willcox.

“The dome  is a venue for setting up an artificial chorus with real frogs; whereas with the chamber, we are using artificial sounds created with a computer,” Schwartz says. “We are trying to get an understanding of the communication system of these animals and try to understand how they can successfully communicate in extremely noisy conditions.”

For those who have never experienced a frog chorus firsthand, imagine the deafening din created by upwards of a hundred male treefrogs all vying for a bit of female attention. Despite the incredible levels of noise, females have to identify males of their own species, decide which male of their own species they want to mate with, and then finally locate him.

“In many ways, the challenges for communication in a treefrog chorus are similar to those faced by human beings trying to carry on a conversation at a crowded cocktail party,” concludes Schwartz.

Food For Thought

Professor Marley Bauce and student AliReza Vaziri ’13 team up for an undergraduate research project to gauge environmental sustainability in Pace’s Dining Halls.

Written by Pace student Sarah Aires ’14

Dyson Professor of Environmental Studies Marley Bauce and Lubin senior AliReza Vaziri are prime examples of how professors and students have come together to make a difference. In this case, the duo has undertaken an innovative new research project on environmental sustainability—and how Pace can adopt a leadership role in the movement.

Recycling, purchasing energy saving appliances, and whizzing around in a Prius are stylish ways to show your support for environment sustainability, but they aren’t necessarily making the impact you think they are.  According to a 2006 meta-analysis conducted by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, industrial agriculture releases 33% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Of this 33%, beef production claims half the responsibility. Forget the Prius: It may be time to confront the steak.

So what can Pace do to help minimize environmental damage? Professor Bauce and Vaziri have teamed up in the Division of Student Success’ Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research Initiative to gauge the environmental sustainability measures of Pace’s Dining Halls and identify what Pace can do to improve.

Professor Bauce and Vaziri believe that Pace could implement three primary changes in order to remain on the cusp of environmental sustainability awareness.

“Pace can lead the initiative by offering more ecologically-friendly options for students,” Professor Bauce said.  As of now, the café does offer some vegetarian options. We have met with representatives of Chartwell’s to discuss our research.”

Another suggestion the research partners have proposed is to implement a “Meatless Monday” campaign across campus, an idea that has already been implemented at the Pace Law School on the White Plains campus. Through this campaign, a wider variety of meat-free food alternatives are offered to students on Mondays, along with educational programs designed to encourage students to eat less meat… both for their health, and for the health of the planet.

NYU and Columbia have also implemented “Meatless Monday” campaigns in order to encourage students to refrain from eating meat on Mondays, thereby reducing their carbon footprints as well as reducing health risk factors.

In a survey that Professor Bauce and Vaziri distributed to 3,000 Pace students and faculty members, the Pace community expressed their desire for an advanced administrative position on environmental consciousness, citing sustainable living as a clear social value.

“The survey asked if [students] would alter their eating habits in order to promote ecological sustainability, and the consensus was that they would not want to change their eating habits out right on their own,” Professor Bauce said. “However, when asked whether they felt that Pace should offer more options for students to eat less meat, the response was overwhelming: The same survey subjects believe that  Pace should launch an initiative to provide students with the option to eat more responsibly if they choose. This is a fascinating dynamic between consumer and corporate environmental responsibilities, right here in the heart of New York City.”

Finally, Vaziri, who founded the campus organization A Dollar’s Difference and was recently awarded Pace’s Jefferson Award for Public Service, suggests that Pace use its influence and power to not only help the environment, but also to help less fortunate individuals within our community. “We would like to see Pace limit food waste, and donate its left over, unused foods to food banks in the area,” Vaziri explained, “We are currently in talks with several to try and set it up.” Americans currently throw away approximately 50% of the food they purchase; this food accumulates in landfills and emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. This is but one more way in that what we eat has a profound effect on the local and global environment.

Says Professor Bauce, “Our next steps are to meet with Provost Sukhatme to discuss options; distribute another survey to students; and prepare a document for distribution around the university, which outlines various ways in which the Pace Community can use food as an important means of expressing an environmental identity.”

The findings of their research will be presented via a poster panel at the Division of Student Success’ Showcase Event on April 29 from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in the Student Union. Admission to this event is free and open to the public; for more information, please contact Sue Maxam, EdD, at

For updates on his developing research, follow AliReza’s blog at here.

Supply and Demand

College of Health Professions Assistant Professor Andréa Sonenberg discusses how the anticipated increases in the number of insured will affect the already short supply of primary care providers.

“We’re going to see about 32 million newly insured people on our rosters, most of which will be on the Medicaid rosters,” says Andréa Sonenberg, DNSc, WHNP, CNM, an Assistant Professor in the College of Health Professions. “The potential problem being projected is that we won’t have enough primary care providers to service this newly insured population.”

With the Supreme Court’s decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) taking place this past June, and with the outcome of this year’s Presidential Election, it is expected that the PPACA will progress to full implementation over the course of the next two years. In an effort to seek out ways to improve access to care for the newly insured, Sonenberg and Dyson Assistant Professor of Public Administration Hilary Knepper, PhD, teamed up with Joyce Pulcini, PhD, PNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, of George Washington University to examine the role of regulatory policies on the practice of nurse practitioners and the health outcomes of would-be patients throughout the United States.

“Our premise is that regulatory policy impacts the ability of nurse practitioners to practice to the full extent of their education and scope of training,” asserts Sonenberg, who goes on to say that the Institute of Medicine recommends the expansion of the scopes of practice for nurse practitioners, who studies have shown to have clinical outcomes that are at least as good as physicians, and who’s patient satisfaction rates are oftentimes significantly higher than physicians.

“Nurse practitioners are a high-quality, cost-effective solution to the primary care shortage,” Sonenberg says, “Not to mention that they’re highly sought after by patients.”

Currently, many of the regulations governing scope of practice within the country, which vary from state to state, are very restrictive. The restrictions typically come in three areas: legislative, which regulatory body decides what the scope of practice for nurse practitioners can be; reimbursement policy, the percentage of the service fee Medicaid or a private insurer is willing to pay a nurse practitioner for providing the same service as a physician; and finally prescriptive authority, which gives nurse practitioners the right to prescribe medications independently of physician supervision.

“We look at how many nurse practitioners practice in a particular state, what percent of the services under Medicaid are delivered by nurse practitioners in that state, the population health outcomes in the state, and whether or not there is any correlation of those variables to the regulatory policies within the state,” she says.

States with more stringent restrictions on scope of practice for nurse practitioners may be less likely to attract nurse practitioners, which potentially impacts the patient population’s access to care within the state. If nurse practitioners are only earning 85 cents to the dollar as compared to a physician delivering the same service, or if a nurse practitioner is able to diagnose a patient’s health issue but must send the patient to a physician to receive a prescription for medication, access to care becomes even more strained.

“I think it’s so important to do this work collaboratively and intercollegially,” says Sonenberg. “I think it expands our perspectives and viewpoints as scholars. For example, working with our colleague in Public Administration has offered a different perspective than solely the health care outcome perspective. And working with a researcher from George Washington University gives us a new geographical outlook, which is especially important when looking at policies that vary depending upon location.”


What the Nose Knows

Dyson Professor Jack Horne, PhD, and his students use a state-of-the-art confocal microscope to study how genes affect the development of the brain and olfactory system in zebrafish.

Image of zebrafish embryo axons taken with Pace’s confocal microscope.

“There are olfactory neurons, the ones that actually sense the smells, that synapse first in the olfactory bulb, which is the first step in smelling for zebrafish and humans, and from the olfactory bulb they send that smell information to a bunch of other parts of the brain,” explains Dyson Professor Jack Horne, PhD. “We’re working on that second step, where the neurons in the olfactory bulb send out axons to wire-up to several different parts of the brain, and we can actually view that wiring-up in live embryos of zebrafish.”

Horne and his team of Pace undergraduates use zebrafish in their research for two main reasons: the first being that they are a vertebrate model system, which means that the basic brain structure and organizational parts are very similar to humans, unlike other model organisms such as the fruit fly. Second, the embryos of zebrafish are essentially transparent, which makes them perfect for doing microscopy work.

“The cerebral cortex of the mouse is more similar to ours than the fish is, but it’s difficult to watch the brain development of the embryo because not only is the brain inside a skull, but also inside the mom mouse,” says Horne.

In zebrafish, Horne is able to incorporate a fluorescent protein in the early developing neurons and watch them grown in real time thanks to the use of Pace’s newly acquired confocal microscope. Horne’s basic experimental approach is to look at how genes affect the pattern of axons growing back into the brain. “We found a couple of genes that if we disrupt their functions we no longer see the normal pattern of nerves growing to other parts of the brain,” he says.  “That tells us that those genes are important to the normal process of how the brain wires up.”

“The genes that we’ve identified to be involved in the development of the zebrafish olfactory system are likely to be involved in how the human olfactory system wires up,” Horne says.

In 2011, Horne and colleagues at Pace were awarded $335,000 by the National Science Foundation for the acquisition of the confocal microscope that he and his student researchers are using in the labs. The microscope allows for 3D imaging (much like a medical doctor’s use of MRI) of the developing brain in the still living zebrafish embryo. The images can be taken intermittently over time to loop together in the creation of a time lapse video of brain development.

“It’s the microscope that makes it possible. Without the microscope, our students wouldn’t be able to do their projects. Before we got our own at Pace, we would have to go to the Albert Einstein Medical School to use theirs,” says Horne. “It’s a big boon to what we’re doing in our lab.”

Scary Stories to Tell on the Web

Dyson Professor Jillian Mcdonald tells her own story about what happens when art meets Internet and how collaborative research with Seidenberg student Julie Gill ’12 helped bring her Horror Stories to life.

Jillian Mcdonald and Julie Gill '12

“When we first completed horror stories in 2009, it was working, but neither of us was excited about it,” says Jillian Mcdonald, an associate professor of fine arts and co-director of the Pace Digital Gallery, discussing a new venture to put her work online. This lack of excitement is what prompted Mcdonald and her undergraduate partner Seidenberg student Julie Gill ’12 to continue their work as part of the first undergraduate student/faculty research initiative.

“We initially made the project in a design environment using Adobe Flash, but by the time we finished, Flash appeared to be on the verge of obsolescence,” says Mcdonald. “We saw this research opportunity as a chance to redo the project in a way that was more viable online and especially on mobile platforms. It was a way to release the project in a more current fashion.”

The project Mcdonald and Gill were collaborating on was a web-based artwork entitled Horror Stories, which Mcdonald describes as “not a film per se, but a contemporary update and visual equivalent to ghost stories told around a campfire.” It is an online space where visitors can consume and produce their own chilling tales―using Mcdonald’s footage or uploading their own.

As Mcdonald designed the visual and aural elements of horror stories, Gill went about figuring out how best to translate the artwork to the web. In her blog chronicling her work, Gill writes “I researched many new web technologies and languages with the features in mind. We know that video upload and play is the most important thing so the main criterion when researching languages is the video support offered by the language.  I found that Ruby on Rails, a new and cutting edge web programming language, has the best support for video uploading and YouTube support.”

After deciding that Ruby on Rails would be the best language choice for horror stories, Gill began learning the language and programming around Mcdonald’s artistic imaginings. Using Mcdonald’s vision as a guide, Gill was able to code a veritable palette of images, sounds, and video clips that visitors to the site could use to compose their own horror story. Visitors could then view and share their own or user-contributed creations on different social networking platforms.

“The aspect of collaboration can potentially make artwork more rich, exciting, and participatory,” says Mcdonald, who is known for her video and performance art that typically feature macabre zombie marches or the artist’s insertion of herself into movie scenes with well-known actors. “More and more I find myself working with actors, musicians, sound designers, and programmers, among others. Over the last three or four years, I’ve worked on large scale videos and performances involving many actors. These have required a lot of collaboration.”

Want to tell your own scary story? Visit Horror Stories online at

Promoting Partnership, Creating Curiosity

Maria T. Iacullo-Bird, PhD, executive director for the Center for Undergraduate Research Experiences discusses the importance of undergraduate research—for both students and professors.

The Center for Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE), within the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, is headed by Executive Director Maria T. Iacullo-Bird, PhD, who also teaches in the Dyson History Department. Iacullo-Bird is an intellectual and cultural historian of American history with specializations that include the organization of knowledge, the history of higher education, and public history.

Why are research experiences important for students?

Undergraduate research is one of the high impact practices outlined by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU). Undergraduate research experiences routinely require sustained and intensive faculty mentoring that increase undergraduate achievement and retention. Through research opportunities, students acquire strong analytic and reasoning abilities and advance their oral and written communication skills. Additionally, they are part of or develop projects that can work to clarify career goals, enhance their graduate or professional school applications, and contribute to their future areas of professional specialization.

How does collaborative research benefit faculty?

Faculty benefits for collaborative research with students include: enriched teaching experiences through the development of mentoring relationships and enhanced student outcomes; a deepened and expanded institutional culture of inquiry and research that benefits professional growth and development; opportunities for further funding that include support for undergraduate research for existing and future projects; and student assistants to work on research projects.

Can you tell me a bit about some of the partnerships CURE has with external organizations?

Through the Pace institutional membership, CURE has an ongoing membership in the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR), a national organization of over 900 colleges and universities whose mission is to “support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship.” CURE oversees several grant programs that provide experiential service-learning opportunities for Pace students. These grant programs include the Community and Volunteer Mobilization (CVM) AmeriCorps, Jumpstart, the Liberty Partnerships Program, and Upward Bound. External partners associated with these grants include the Chinatown Beacon YMCA, the Chinese-American Planning Council, Middle School 131, Hamilton-Madison House, Our Lady of Sorrows School, the High School for Leadership and Public Service, the High School of Economics and Finance, and the High School for Human Services and Health Professions. Brooklyn high school partners include Brooklyn High School for the Arts, Clara Barton High School, George Westinghouse High School, Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, and Williamsburg Preparatory High School.

How many students/faculty members participate, on average?

At present, CURE’s grant programs and projects provide an average of sixty undergraduate students with work and service positions.  Several hundred disadvantaged youth who attend school in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn and range in age from preschool through high school are served by these existing grants. Faculty and staff can teach, mentor, and develop research projects within these existing grants and at any one time, two or three faculty are involved in CURE-housed grant programs.  However, CURE’s larger mandate within Dyson is to coordinate and foster undergraduate research by targeting funding sources for both faculty and students, offering support to faculty as they write and submit grant applications, advising the management of the post-grant award phase, and tracking all Dyson-funded applications. During the last academic year, approximately half a dozen Dyson faculty and staff consulted at CURE regarding funding sources and the grant application process. As a relatively new Center, CURE expects these numbers to gradually increase as it becomes better known throughout Dyson.

What are some of the teams working on now, or notable projects from the recent past?

As part of a Dyson public history course taught by myself, undergraduates conducted, recorded, and transcribed over 90 interviews of individuals from Pace and the larger New York City community who had witnessed the 9/11 tragedy. For the 2011 year, Thinkfinity, AmeriCorps, and Dyson College Undergraduate Summer Research funds are supporting a digital project phase as students assistants check and digitally convert audio tapes and printed transcriptions and upload the finalized versions into the Pace Digital Commons.

How do students/faculty get involved in research through CURE?

Students and faculty can get involved in research through large informational events or individual communications and meetings. For example, in September 2009 CURE participated in Dyson’s External Grants day, an event that was open to the entire University community to inform faculty about the grant-funding process. CURE continues to be involved with similar grant-awareness events for Dyson faculty targeting specific interdisciplinary collaborations. Additionally, students and faculty can participate in service-learning and teaching opportunities and develop research projects offered by the CURE-managed grant programs ranging from reading-readiness activities with preschool children to teaching writing and study skills to low-income, first-generation college bound high school students.

For more information about CURE and the research opportunities available for both faculty and students, click here.

Convincing Cancer Cells to Commit Suicide

Dyson professor Nancy Krucher, PhD, continues her groundbreaking research on cancer cells, with help from Pace biology students.

L-R: Nancy Krucher, PhD, Brandon Lentine, Ray Hunce, and Lisa Antonucci.

“Cancer develops from our own cells that acquire mutations and grow into tumors. Most of the cancer research being done is trying to understand this process and trying to find targets within cancer cells that cause them to grow too much and metastasize,” explains Nancy Krucher, PhD, a Dyson professor in the Department of Biology and Health Sciences on the Westchester Campus. For the last 15 years Krucher has been studying how cancer cells make the decision to grow—essentially studying what causes cancer cells to live or die.

Krucher was recently awarded a three-year grant of more than $380,000 from the National Institutes of Health that will allow her to continue her research here at Pace.  “With this grant,” she says “we will be asking questions about how cancer cells signal to commit suicide, or how they kill themselves. To do that, we do cell biology and biochemistry experiments on cancer cells, mostly breast cancer cells.” Her project, titled “The Role of RB in Dephosphorylation in Apoptosis,” investigates how a protein (RB) affects programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells.

“Much of cancer research is designed to find targets within the cell that could eventually be targets of therapy. Figuring out how cancer cells work is a big part of eventually developing cures,” Krucher says.

But for Krucher, another rewarding aspect of doing this work is mentoring students.  “All of the work is very student driven. It’s just myself and the undergraduates working on this project. The research students get course-credit or they can be supported by the grant, but the purpose is that they learn how to be scientists.”  Krucher explains that her laboratory trains undergraduate students in scientific techniques, helping them learn how to prepare hypotheses, design and analyze experiments, and eventually present their results at national cancer conferences and regional symposia. In addition, Krucher and her students publish papers on their findings.

“Some of the students really love the experience and decide to become scientists,” says Krucher. “For example, I had one student who graduated in 2009 and now he’s doing his PhD at Duke University in cancer biology. He’s going to dedicate his life to cancer research. That’s what really makes me the happiest,” she says.

“Getting the grant is key,” says Krucher, who knows that without funding, research and classroom experience would be radically changed for Pace students. “Working with the students in the lab is a huge part of what I do here and if I didn’t get federal funding, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” she says.

Are you interested in working with an undergraduate student to conduct research during the 2011-2012 year? Pace is committed to strengthening the undergraduate research climate through a new pilot program designed to increase opportunities for students to undertake research and scholarship with faculty. Click here for more information.

Talking Trash

Judith Pajo, PhD, has brought her anthropological approach to studying the habits of New York City households and the complex ways in which society views recycling.

“Our lifestyle is paradoxically both resourceful and wasteful,” says Judith Pajo, PhD, who is studying how New Yorkers deal with trash. “Population growth does not make the waste part better. In the 1800s, the world had fewer than one billion people. Currently, we are nearly seven billion and growing.” Population growth, industrialization, and other factors, have led to pollution and global climate changes. “Our planet is getting warmer and our way of life is just not sustainable,” says Pajo, who decided to dig deeper into the topic.

Sustainability is a large research field that involves many disciplines.  And it impacts academia as well as several industries and governmental and legislative bodies.  Pajo decided to take an unusual approach. “When it comes to sustainability, many people feel the government isn’t doing enough to keep the industry in check. But I focus on consumers. We live in a consumer society,” she says. “Goods are produced because we consume them; at the heart of production is consumption.  I look at our current unsustainability as a way to understand sustainability.”

Currently, she is researching household practices within New York City. “As a cultural anthropologist I take a holistic approach to data,” says Pajo. For her dissertation, at the University of California, she studied recycling in Germany—following the path of waste from the home, to the truck, to the sorting facility in the city of Berlin, and interviewing actors from producers of waste and recycling facility workers to government and private sector experts.  In her current research, Pajo is developing further several aspects of her earlier work.  She hopes that her findings will help us understand how New York City households, and U.S. households more generally, make complicated decisions about sustainability.

“There is something peculiar anthropologists recognize during my research,” Pajo laughs. She calls it “shared stories” because many people would relate them over and over, as though they had happened to each one personally. For example, many of the people she interviewed had seen sorted recycled materials being dumped into a garbage truck or mixed together. “I thought to myself, there is something going on at a deeper level,” she says.

“The information we have about what actually happens with recycling is very simplistic.  As consumers, we want to know more about what happens to the things we recycle.  To be responsible actors, people need a complex view of the recycling process. Information about the process can help inform decisions about consumption,” Pajo explains.  Ultimately, Pajo aims to turn her findings into a book that will help individuals and households answer a question we ask ourselves: Should we recycle?

Are you interested in working with an undergraduate student to conduct research during the 2011-2012 year? Pace is committed to strengthening the undergraduate research climate through a new pilot program designed to increase opportunities for students to undertake research and scholarship with faculty. Click here for more information.

Popularity Pays Off

Doctoral student Arthur O’Connor’s recent study evaluating the correlation between brand popularity across social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, and companies’ daily stock prices is making waves.

Arthur O’Connor, a second year doctoral candidate in Seidenberg’s DPS program, recently spent 10 months investigating the relationship social media has with Wall Street—to some interesting results. O’Connor was able to show a strong correlation between the Internet popularity of three consumer brands and their stock prices. “There’s no such thing as a daily revenue count. Companies do quarterly revenue reports, so I used stock prices as a daily indicator,” explains O’Connor.

O’Connor partnered with, an independently run website that tracks and formulates statistical data from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. follows the trends of everything from nonprofits like the TED Conferences to entertainers like Eminem.

“I did the pilot study with Starbucks,” O’Connor says, “and there was a statistically significant correlation of fan count and stock price.” But the pilot study only covered a short period of time. “I wanted to do the study over the long-term, because with such a short time frame, you could begin to see correlations between anything—astrological signs and daily stock prices,” he jokes.

O’Connor expanded his sample to include two other consumer brands: Nike and Coca-Cola. He worked with to collect data on the popularity of these brands and discovered that what he found in his pilot study held true over the course of the 10 months—even accounting for general market conditions. Initially, O’Connor was unsure if online popularity (fan count) was influencing the stock prices or if the stock prices were affecting online popularity (fan count). However, by lagging fan count for 10 and 30 days, he was able to determine that it was indeed online popularity that was influencing stock prices. During this study period, as the popularity of the brands fluctuated on the Internet, Starbucks stock rose by 29 percent, Coca-Cola fell by nearly 6 percent, and Nike middled with stock growth of approximately 14 percent.

In the future, O’Connor hopes to expand his study to include a wider range of consumer brands. He believes that it’s possible for Wall Street to use fan metrics to track consumer brands, but that understanding the nature of the effect is still a challenge. “Companies are still learning the power of social media,” says O’Connor. “This is a window that offers insight into consumer behavior. Fan count and popularity can predict how well a company will do.”

O’Connor’s work is currently garnering its own “fan count” online, with increasing coverage in the media. Here are links to recent articles about his research:

The Wall Street Journal

PC Magazine

SocialMedia Observatory


Saying Goodnight to Sleeping Sickness

Nigel Yarlett, PhD, of the Haskins Laboratories discusses how researchers are working to bring new hope to sufferers of long-ignored diseases.

Nigel Yarlett, PhD, and student researchers

The Haskins Laboratories, which have been at Pace since 1970, have been centered on researching possible cures for diseases that are out of the public spotlight. “We work on things that aren’t stylish—not in vogue. And consequentially, things that aren’t typically funded to a great extent,” says Nigel Yarlett, PhD, director of the Haskins Laboratories at Pace University.

Recently, parasitologists at the Lab have focused their attention on new methods of treatment for Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness. Researchers are working to develop compounds that will help treat sleeping sickness in the nearly half-a-million infected inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa. “Some drugs were developed in the 1920s to treat the illnesses, but these drugs had an arsenic base,” Yarlett says. “For those being treated with these drugs, death occurred more quickly than it would have if they hadn’t been treated!… These are the first new drugs [developed to treat HAT] in 30 years,” says Yarlett, “We’re very excited.”

The researchers have discovered a new line of compounds that have been effective in curing mice and are now being tested on larger mammals. They will be going into clinical trials with a cohort of 1,000 human patients in Africa later this year. They plan to target villages in Africa, whose inhabitants are cut off from any sort of medical access. “For the people living in these villages, this sort of sickness is just a way of life,” says Yarlett.

Additionally, workers at the Haskins Laboratories are attempting to develop a first line of treatment for a far more global issue—cryptosporidiosis, a waterborne illness that causes chronic diarrhea. Its major impact has been among those with weakened immune systems, including those who are HIV+, receiving cancer treatments, or those that have undergone organ transplantation. “Cryptosporidosis is one of the major causes of death in HIV+ people and currently there is nothing available to treat it,” Yarlett says. However Yarlett hopes that the great minds at Pace will soon be able to help in that front as well.

“In the world of parasitology, the Haskins Lab is recognized worldwide,” says Yarlett. “It’s one of the reasons I came to Pace and I’m proud to be a part of such a great asset to the University.”

The Haskins Laboratories was founded in 1935 at General Electrical and Union College by four young and innovative scientists, one of whom became its namesake, Caryl Haskins, a physicist and geneticist. In 1970 it split into two divisions, the Microbiology Division, under Seymour Hutner (one of the original scientists) affiliated with Pace University, and the Speech Recognition and Cognition Division affiliated with Yale University. It is funded by a number of sources, including  the National Institutes of Health (in collaboration with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas), Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and Genzyme Corp and works  in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies Scynexis and Anacor.

For more information about the work being done at the Haskins Laboratories, click here.

Editor’s Note: Since publication, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative has recognized the work of Dyson Professors Cyrus Bacchi, PhD, and Nigel Yarlett, PhD, of the Haskins Laboratories, with the Project of the Year 2011 Award for the development of the first new drug to go to clinical trial and the first new treatment for Human African Trypanosomiasis (“sleeping sickness”) in more than 40 years.

Muskrat Love (and Other Animals)

From tracking wild pumas in Chile, to looking at local rat populations, Melissa Grigione, PhD, is trying to make the world a safer place for all animals—and pass that knowledge and passion on to her students at Pace.

Melissa Grigione, PhD, and her husband, Ron Sarno, PhD, tagging burrowing owls.

“The animals may change, but my interest hasn’t,” says Melissa Grigione, PhD, director of Pace’s graduate program in environmental science who is currently spearheading a number of research projects to study and protect the habitats of wild animals.

Grigione, who began her college career in a pre-veterinary program at McGill University, soon realized her real passion was the conservation and protection of wild species.  “My interest began with marine mammals—dolphins, manatees—and eventually spread to other animals. I was in Africa twice, in West Africa to study elephants, and then I branched out to studying endangered land carnivores,” Grigione explains.

Currently, Grigione is studying the native (yet seldom seen) inhabitants of the New York area: mink, bobcats, weasels, and muskrats. These species have very healthy populations, she notes, which allows her to study the concept of conservation from the other end of the spectrum. “We ask the opposite question: What makes these animals common? How are they able to ‘make a living’?” she says, “I studied the requirements they needed to live in a healthy fashion—the space they needed, spatial ecology, then I moved to their diets, and eventually I moved on to the parasites and diseases affecting these populations.”

Last summer, Grigione and her husband, a professor of ecology and genetics at Hofstra, took their children on a six-week RV-ing adventure in the Badlands of South Dakota. “The kids just love, love, love to study animals,” she says, “And with the help of the National Park Service, we studied the diets of bison, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep… While we were in South Dakota, we took a drive to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is a Lakota Sioux reservation. There was a college on the reservation, so we went to visit. There were no students, but there was one woman walking around the campus. It turned out that the woman was the CFO of the college,” Grigione laughs.

Melissa Grigione, PhD, and family

The chance meeting ended up becoming an exciting opportunity—not only for Grigione but also for Pace. This summer, Grigione plans on expanding her research and returning to the reservation to teach at the college.  “I like the melding of the traditional and the scientific. There are elders on the reservation, and I think we have a lot to learn from one another. I’d eventually like to bring some of their faculty to Pace; I think it would be a fruitful experience for our students in New York,” she says.  She also hopes that someday in the future, graduate students at Pace will be able to travel with her to South Dakota.

“Animals enrich our lives and I feel I really need to do the right thing to affect change… I want to inspire students to do amazing things. I want to turn them on to the field that’s turned me on for so many years,” Grigione says. “Seeing my students blossom is truly incredible. What’s unique about our graduate environmental science program is that it’s more than just science—it’s policy, law, environmental communication. This diversity means our students come out equipped with skills they need to share with the rest of the world that’s so hungry for solutions.”